Handling Mass Fatalities: Advancements since 9/11 by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s World Trade Center Identification Unit

Missing persons and unidentified human remains are a tremendous challenge to state and local law enforcement agencies. In 2007, a National Institute of Justice study estimated that as many as 40,000 cases of unidentified human remains were then being held or had been buried by medical examiners’ and coroners’ offices throughout the United States. Many crime laboratories do not have the ability to perform DNA analysis on old or degraded human remains, further exacerbating the problem of unidentified decedent caseloads. Helping the forensic community to reduce the number of cases involving unidentified remains by advancing the DNA techniques developed during the last 10 years is a driving factor behind the human identification work being done at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (NYC OCME).